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Todd Spodek (Managing Partner)

Mr. Spodek decided early on in his life to focus his education and experience on trial work. Todd Spodek attended Northeastern University in Boston, MA and majored in criminal justice. This background provided an indispensable tool in the representation of criminal defendants in grand jury investigations, pre-trial hearings, trial, appeals and navigating the corrections process.…

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SNAP Civil Money Penalty

Civil Money Penalties for SNAP Charges

 

In many regions of the United States, the cost of living is high for the average family.  Because of this, millions of people nationwide routinely fall short financially for all of their bills and living expenses. Oftentimes, they run out of money to care for their children and put food on the table in spite of the fact that adults in the home have full-time jobs or receive disability benefits for their families. It’s a formidable obstacle that millions of Americans are up against daily, even though almost no one is candid about discussing their financial troubles, even with people they are close to. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a government benefit scheme formed and administered by the United States federal government to provide nutrition assistance to families who live with the uncertainty of getting adequate nutrition to their families.

 

SNAP is the biggest of the programs the federal government has initiated to come to the aid of hungry citizens and distribute much needed supplemental nutrition to children and families in lower socioeconomic strata. It’s role is to help adults who are indeed employed but earn low wages and face difficulties making ends meet with a chance to alleviate the pressure of an inadequate food budget for their families so no one has to remain hungry. All of that notwithstanding, it is all too common for both grocers who accept Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards and benefit recipients to misrepresent themselves on their applications to receive more money and benefits out of the government. If you are the owner of a grocery store that serves SNAP benefit customers and you are in receipt of a SNAP Civil Money Penalty letter, you have to pay close attention and take this very seriously. 

 

The Basics of the Civil Money Penalty

 

Essentially, the SNAP Civil Money Penalty is a charge letter that details alleged violations and the related penalties that the proprietor of a business is being charged for performing illegal transactions and profiting illegally from their license to accept EBT payments. If such a letter should happen to land in your mailbox, it is the sign of a very grave situation.  The next thing that you should get yourself a specialist SNAP attorney expeditiously. Profiting from SNAP benefits is classified by the USDA as a criminal offense, and you can pay big fines and be heavily penalized for crimes in this class.

 

Should the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) be of the opinion that your business has been profiting financially or benefitting in any other fashion from the improper use of EBT cards that your customers shop with in your place of business, they send this letter to you.  In the letter, you are offered two options:

  1. You can respond to the letter inside of the 10 (ten) day window you are given to pay a cash fine and keep your store’s SNAP license.
  2. You can disregard the letter or respond too late and see your store get disqualified from accepting SNAP benefits.

 

Once again, you have just 10 (ten) days to respond to a Civil Money Penalties letter. The USDA does not offer an option to apply for an extension. This is an unyielding protocl with no exceptions. The USDA demands your answer quickly.  They want to know if you are going to remit payment in an effort to hold on to your license to take EBT benefits or not.

 

What is the Advantage of Paying a Civil Money Penalty?

 

There are those proprietors who question the wisdom of paying a financial penalty for this instead of simply taking a suspension of their SNAP privileges. The answer is pretty straightforward. In the United States, millions of dollars in purchases take place through EBT cards annually for the use of SNAP benefits. If you suddenly no longer have the ability to accept EBT cards from your customers, you will lose them. There are millions of families that are simply incapable of paying for their monthly groceries out of their working income, and the fact that you cannot  take their EBT cards for food anymore means you’re not going to benefit from their frequent custom anymore.

 

The financial consequences of having your license to accept SNAP payments suspended even for a few months are far more expensive for most grocery stores than the cost of a civil money penalty. Furthermore, you may not have the knowledge you require to properly respond to the letter, to properly pay the fine, or to know what is required of you when a letter arrives in the mail in the first place. This is definitely the case if you are not fully clear about why you have received a charge letter. That’s why retaining an experienced criminal lawyer cannot wait another day. You can’t sell liquor as if you are a liquor store

 

How Can My Attorney Help Me?

 

The peaks and valleys of SNAP civil money penalties are rather complicated for the average individual to understand. In addition to the long list of requirements, regulations, and stipulations associated with them, there are a ridiculous amount of minute details that an untrained individual would be hard pressed to master in 10 days or less without intimate knowledge of the laws.

 

Some questions to consider: 

  1. Have you implemented  SNAP compliance policies at your store? 
  2. Do your staff members undergo training in your store to learn about SNAP benefits, and do you furnish a written training guide to every employee? 
  3. Can you demonstrate with documentation or logs that your SNAP compliance policy was in effect before it was violated
  4. Did you yourself, any of your workers or managers, or your store profit personally from the abuse of SNAP benefits in any fashion?

 

You need to deliver thorough answers to all of these questions to start to even qualify for a civil money penalty in the first place. Dozens of other questions will be asked, each one ever more complex than the one before. Experienced SNAP Attorneys can assist you in sorting through the mountain of documentation, filling out the application for the penalty, and comprehending the issuance of the notice you got. Ten business days is a very short time for you to take care of this kind of matter successfully without the help of a professional.  Bear in mind that improperly handling the application and/or paperwork can even end up in denial of a civil money penalty.

 

Reluctance to putting out the cash to pay a Civil Money Penalty to the USDA is a normal feeling, and it is sensible from a business standpoint. Under these circumstances, nevertheless, the penalty is the least expensive option to get an issue of this magnitude off your plate. Misuse of SNAP funds is a serious crime from the government’s perspective, and having your ability to take SNAP payments in your store taken away can hugely impact your bottom line. This situation can rapidly become unaffordable.

 

For the majority of family grocers in America, their store is a vital source of income for their family and for the families of their workers and managers.  In light of this fact, one cannot afford to have the ability to accept any frequently used method of payment taken away. The time for you to retain a highly rated  attorney to step into this circumstance is the very day a Civil Money Penalty letter shows up in the mail. Do remember that you have only 10 (ten) days to finish the process, which is inconceivable when you have little or no understanding of what’s being asked of you and what your requirements are.

 

A n expert SNAP program attorney can help you out by possibly getting the penalty amount reduced, helping you retain your license to accept SNAP benefits, and give you the ability to continue to operate your business and make money. Even a short term suspension could cost your business thousands of dollars, and the effects of that suspension can reach much further if your SNAP customers have all decided to shop elsewhere once they learn that you can no longer accept their EBT payments. It is hardly worth the potential financial hardship to attempt to proceed without an experienced lawyer to take care of the legal ramifications of this notice.

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